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Friday (1997)

Friday (1997)
3.81 of 5 Votes: 5
0345414004 (ISBN13: 9780345414007)
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Friday (1997)
Friday (1997)

About book: For my entire adult life, and a bit back before becoming an adult, I have walked to the “Science Fiction” section of the book store and seen this book lurking there. The cover with the unzipped jumpsuit, “Ooh, silly me, is that my right breast?” has always vaguely piqued my attention, but never quite enough to inspire me to actually purchase the thing. There are, after all, Boris Vellejo covers not too far away, and those are going to draw my eye and empty my wallet faster when I’m looking for something “light” to read. Thinking that it would form a contrast with some of the other fair I’ve been doling out to myself, at long last I pulled the trigger on this one.I am very, very sorry that I did.This book is the worst reading experience I have had in over a decade. It’s a shameful piece of work that really should be acknowledged as a culminating nail in the coffin to a literary midget masquerading as a giant. Aside from the reprehensible themes, childish logic, an outright vile representation of women, politics and culture, the language is flabby, the plot meandering, the dialogue reads like a poorly scripted soap opera, and the characters are motivated by a perverse sense of the author’s sexual depravities and megalomania. Reading this book is like watching a Hentai version of The Turner Diaries written by a poor man’s John Galt.I’ve read maybe six or eight other Heinlein novels in my time. Starship Troopers, Strangers in a Strange Land, Job: A Comedy of Justice, etc. Enough to have certain expectations about the content, both positive and negative. That is, I did not have particularly high expectations. Unfortunately, in this book, Heinlein fails to achieve even the least effective of his writing strengths while diving headlong into his deficits of character and embracing them as if they were virtues. It’s a despicable, masturbatory indulgence in which Heinlein presents his fantasy of femininity and social status wrapped up in obvious and poorly executed straw man caricatures of those whose political and social beliefs he opposes. I’m not kidding. They are literal caricatures. He puts an Indian headdress on the “chief of California.” That’s the level of humor and sophistication in this book. Notoriously lefty and democratic California in Heinlein’s imagination leads to a leadership that confuses “chief executive” with “chief of the tribe” and puts a feathered hat on the head of their government leader.What’s worse than any of the outright obnoxiousness of this book is that it manages to commit the worst crime of science fiction entertainment: it’s BORING. BORING with a capital “What-the-Hell-are-you-talking-about?” There are seemingly unending dialogues about the particulars of credit cards in Heinlein’s dystopia (which he might suggest is a utopia.) Can I use my card here? Yes, I can. No, I can’t? Sorry, I thought I could. Will this card work now that the border is closed? What about your card? Let’s use this stolen card, but you’ll have to do it because it’s got a man’s name on it, so I can only do electronic transactions on it. Let’s use your card this time, the stolen card next time, and then my card when we get to the next city. What forms do I have to fill out to get a card in this country? Can we talk about this card but using the specie of another country?Who could possibly care? This kind of thing may be entertaining to some CPA who dreams of one day committing credit card fraud in a dangerous time, but for the rest of us it is abject boredom at 21% APR. How Heinlein managed to put his own shopping around for a better rate on his credit cards into fiction and people read it like it is entertainment is utterly beyond me. And, you know what? It’s not science fiction. It’s not speculative science fiction. It’s not social science fiction. It’s just tortuous fictionalization of accounting and arbitrage. There are pages and pages of this. It goes on interminably as if it weren’t rambling filler from an author long past his own expiration date. It’s just sad....and then: the lottery. The main character wins the lottery after negotiating the price of the ticket from a street vendor. Now, what is the point in an author presenting a laissez faire society as a merit and then having his main character win a lottery as a plot point? Wish fulfillment?Now, I’m going to get into something that I’ve been avoiding because, frankly, it’s just too disgusting and pathetic to merit a whole heck of a lot of thought... but I’d be remiss not to mention the way Heinlein presents sex, sexuality and women in this book.Here’s some prose from the opening after the main character has been ambushed and captured by unknown assailants:But why waste time by raping me? This whole operation had amateurish touches. No professional group uses either beating or rape before interrogation today; there is no profit in it; any professional is trained to cope with either or both.So, we get treated to a rape scene. What’s worse is Heinlein’s handling of the subject:For rape she (or he—I hear it’s worse for males) can either detach the mind and wait for it to be over, or (advanced training) emulate the ancient Chinese adage. Or, in place of method A or B, or combined with B if the agent’s histrionic ability is up to it, the victim can treat rape as an opportunity to gain an edge over her captors. I’m no great shakes as an actress but I try and, while it has never enabled me to turn the tables on unfriendlies, at least once it kept me alive.And:After he became flaccid he said, “Mac, we’re wasting our time. This slut enjoys it.” “So get out of the way and give the kid another chance. He’s ready.” “Not yet. I’m going to slap her around, make her take us seriously.” He let me have a big one, left side of my face. I yelped.Now, the existence of a violent, sexual, or in this case sexually violent scene in a book does not, of course, mean anything in and of itself. The author’s treatment of the subject, however, is vitally important. In this case, Heinlein’s premise is that a violent gang rape is something that a woman (or a man, apparently) should not only be able to shrug off psychologically, but should ideally turn into situation where the victim can gain a tactical advantage. It’s a matter of training. (Fortunately, he leaves the details of that training unaddressed.) Later, the main character has no emotional problems that result from the assault and objects mostly to the physical hygiene of one her rapists (the one who slapped her) as the most unpleasant aspect of the event. Within days she’s off engaging in partner swapping sexual escapades as if nothing untoward had happened.Quite simply, this premise is the product of a deeply flawed mind. The intellect that developed and presented such a concept as an ideal is someone with a serious lack of empathy or even basic human decency. It’s a repugnant premise, and one that not only should be recognized for what it is, but should color the reputation of the author and his legacy permanently.Through the rest of the book we get Heinlein’s view of free love. His main character pursues her sexuality vigorously... but only in response to someone pressing her first. Her sexuality is presented as being open and free, but if examined carefully, she responds to sexual advances with deference and submission rather than a frank and open sex drive. Throughout the book her sexuality is at the service of those around her.Heinlein does have a dynamic that could be used to rationalize his characterization in that his main character is an artificial person, one whose genetic profile has been “upgraded” in various ways from the human standard. Though it is not described as part of that upgrading, those enhancements could, in theory, include a sort of psychological or neurological change. While we do get information about her physical changes on more than one occasion, there is no content about any such changes to her mentality other than the circumstances of being raised in a crèche for similar “artificial” people. So, if one were inclined to give Heinlein the benefit of the doubt, it would have to be based on something outside the actual text.What’s worse, it is here that we run into one of the other flaws of Heinlein’s clearly retrograde character and writing. One of the themes of this book is the rights of “artificial persons” in his future world. They are considered second class citizens, and often denied basic rights. His lead character often faces prejudices based on her status as an AP. Heinlein borrows or references any number of racial and social struggles in drawing upon this aspect of his novel.However, if a reader is inclined to give Heinlein an out on the issue of rape and the sexuality of his main character based on the fact that she has been genetically altered to acclimate things like rape and the sublimation of her sexuality to the will of others then... she’s not human. She is a living sex toy. Her desires and behavior are the product of her design. In short, she has no human rights because she actually isn’t human. The ire that Heinlein presents at the prejudice against artificial people is, in fact, supported by his portrayal. It’s a wildly hypocritical plot device that appears to have completely escaped the author. Maybe it was simply beyond him intellectually, but it doesn’t read that way. It reads as a man unable to grasp how fallacious his logic is in the pursuit of weakly considered straw man argument.The book is filled with such fallacies. In fact, I only made it through the whole thing because I was hoping that there would be some indication that it was a subversive exploration of such fallacies in science fiction literature. I hoped that in the end, even with it’s stunningly dull rambling sections on politics and finances, the book would wind up being an elaborate parody or satire of the themes that it presented. Sadly, no such reveal ever came up. The book is exactly what it purports to be.So, on the whole, I’m going to have to give this book a single star, but only because there is no negative star capacity on Goodreads. I can only recommend this book to someone with an academic interest in the decline of an author whose reputation is overblown, his importance over-estimated, and whose work has clearly caught up to a sadly lacking intellect.

Robert Anson Heinlein…shame on you, sir. W…T…everwomanhating…F were you thinking when you wrote this drivel? Friday is, in my irritated opinion, the most offensive and childishly ridiculous female protagonist since Russ Meyer and Roger Corman teamed up to co-direct Planet of the Nympho Bimbos Part II: Attack of the Soapy Breast Monsters.** ** Not a real film, so don’t bother searching Amazon for it. Pardon my soap boxing, but this is a despicable pile of misogynistic shit that should have been dropped, wiped away and flushed from the literary world before it ever plopped on the printing press. Sorry for the dysphemism, but “I really didn’t like it” just doesn’t adequately express my loathe-on for this book. Previously, I’d read and enjoyed a handful of Robert Heinlein’s novels and many of his short stories and considered myself a fan of his work. I have also read some reviews where people took issue with his attitudes on sex and women, but hadn’t personally come across anything I found excessively off-putting…UNTIL NOW. This noxious crap pissed me off the roof of the RAH Fan club and had me losing respect for the man all the way down. Before I get to my major problems with the book, let me pause, slow my heart rate and give you a quick run down of the plot: PLOT SUMMARYSet in the future on a balkanized Earth that has splintered into a collection of rival city-states, corporate fiefdoms and criminal enclaves, Friday Baldwin is an artificial person (AP) who works as a combat courier for a mysterious employer. Her job is making deliveries and pick ups to sensitive to be entrusted to normal channels. As an AP, she is stronger, faster and supposedly more intelligent than normal humans though she hides her true nature because APs are held in contempt by society (similar to Robots in Asimov’s much better Robot novels). Early on in the book Friday finds herself out of a job and then travels from situation to situation acting as the reader’s eyes and ears for Heinlein to share with us his vision of a dystopic future and expound on his political views. Of the almost 400 pages in the book, there’s about 100 or so that are decent, Heinlein world building. MY PROBLEMS WITH THIS BOOKFor all of her strength, speed and deadly fighting ability, Friday is nothing more than an insecure, bubble-headed skank who thinks that SEX is the only valuable commodity she has to offer in this world. Countless times in the book, she either sleeps with, or tells the reader she would be willing to sleep with, someone as nothing more than a courteous “thank you” for being nice. Don’t get me wrong, sexual independence and equality…fine by me. But I got no inkling in Heinlein’s prose of sex being an uninhibited display of physicality between equals free to express themselves. Nope, didn’t see it. I saw tawdry, lowbrow objectification grounded in atavistic chauvinism rather than new age “free loveism.” Granted, most of the sex Friday has in the book is consensual and she’s a willing participant. I say “most” because there’s an instance at the beginning of the book when Friday is kidnapped and gang-raped by 4 guys (I’m not kidding folks). Of course, Friday, for the most part, doesn’t hold a grudge against the rapists as she believes they are just “softening” her up for interrogation which she completely understands. Whoa…full stop…major HUH? Moment ahead. Excuse me while I bang my head against the wall in frustration. As a proud: 1. Father of two brilliant, happy and outgoing little girls, 2. Husband of a smart, confident, self-motivated woman,3. Younger brother of two well-educated, independent sisters, and 4. Youngest son of an intelligent, successful businesswoman (and mom of 5)……I just wanted to bitch-slap Heinlein until I knocked the skeevy right out of him. Please don’t interpret this as some indulgent display of gender enlightenment by the PC police as I am about as opposed to militant PCness as I am about this book. Hell, the women I know can more than take care of themselves without my blundering around getting in the way. However, this book is horrible. It’s crap and I don’t want to avoid calling it what it is simply at the risk of appearing to pander. There were dozens of instances in the book where I wanted to throw the book (with Heinlein attached) against the wall, but I’m going to mention just three of them to give you an idea of our protagonist. 1. A young man offers Friday his seat on a crowded passenger train. She accepts and then proceeds to lean forward as he stands next to her so as to allow him to look down her shirt. She does this as a gesture of thanks. 2. Friday explains her belief that it is inappropriate for her to allow someone to buy her a meal unless she is willing to give them a legitimate shot at sleeping with her. Now that’s class. 3. I don’t want to give away a spoiler so let me just tease you by saying that one of the 4 rapists from the beginning of the book reappears later in the novel and Friday’s interaction with him will cause you to fume, spit blood and hack up bile….TRUST ME ON THIS. This is not some strong, independent woman who isn’t afraid of her sexuality and explores it with confidence and on her own terms. This is a timid, naïve woman with a massive inferiority complex who feels she “owes” a guy the opportunity of getting her into her pants because he offered her his seat on a passenger train. Are you [email protected]#KING kidding me?This book was a big, hairy Neanderthal of a novel with its knuckles dragging along the floor and had more in common with the soft-core porn of John Norman’s Gor novels than the previous work I’ve read by Mr. Heinlein.A horrible, massive disappointment and it will be a while before I give one of his books my time. For now, Mr. Heinlein, let me just say:
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I read this in high school (the cover really helps these star ratings). If I were to reread this today (which I have no desire to do), I would give it 2 stars, mostly for the ending ((view spoiler)[which reduces the eponymous Friday to a barefoot-and-pregnant housewife of one of the men who raped her in the first chapter (hide spoiler)]
LittleAsian Sweatshop
I admit it. I'm a Heinlein junkie. I'm not sure if there is a rehab or a self-help group out there for me, but even if there was one, I'm not sure if I would even want to go to it. It's Heinlein after all! I've read everything from his lesser-known earlier works like "Orphans in the Sky", to his Juveniles like "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", to his Lazarus Long series, even is famous "Stranger in a Strange Land", to even his non-fiction work. And although I love them all, I must say, that Friday is undisputedly my favorite.What makes Friday so alluring? It is a tale of acceptance and belonging and what is the human soul. It is a story of an "artificial person", Friday Jones, whose "mother was a test tube, and her father a knife". She is a professional courier (that is to say, she is a carrier pigeon for top-secret documents and important information), who seems to be normal and well adjusted in every way. However, underneath her cheerful and charming exterior lays a frightened little girl who seeks acceptance in the most desperate ways, but fails in her quest to find a family. During these chronicles, she discovers many things about herself. Small, personal bits of information, a strength and resourcefulness that she never knew she had. Eventually, she finds a family and as she says, she finally "belongs".The story is quite simple, so why is this story so spellbinding?Besides the beautiful blend of technology, history, and characterization, there is also a cohesive story line as well as a thrilling plot. Friday asks the age-old question, what is a soul? What makes a human, a person? Although she is beautiful, accomplished and talented, once she reveals that she is an AP, she is outcast and sneered at. She is considered less then a human, because she was not born, but created.This question has undoubtedly been raised in the works of the Grand Masters of science fiction. Asimov took a mechanical point of view in "The Bicentennial Man". Phillip Dick echoed Friday, and the concept of APs in "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" with the plight of the Replicates. So why does Friday tug at me so?Because it is told from the human point of view. With the exception of Friday's superhuman speed and strength, she could be very well be anyone. She has the same fears and desires, and her childlike charm and insecurity makes her all the more human.Her quest to find a family and for acceptance is a long and winding one. She is not on a crusade to change the world, nor to battle the great evil of prejudice and racism, but to find her niche in the world. Her caring and nurturing nature is juxtaposed with her lethal skills, giving her the dimension that is necessary for us to follow her story.Friday makes us care about her trials, and her hurts become ours. And as a result, makes us ask ourselves what defines us as human, and feel the anguish at discrimination.It is the ability to not only inflame, but also to soothe, that makes Friday so memorable.
Not my favorite Heinlein book, and not his best, but certainly not the worst. After The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, much of his works started becoming a little redundant in their characterizations ('good' women are always super smart and sexy and love to fuck, 'good' men are always brave and strong, both have frontier ideals and want a free society of people just like them who all fuck each other without jealousy and live in group marriages) and a little slower in their plot machinations (they spend more time on characterizations of people that, if you've read Heinlein of this period, you're already familiar with). That said, I don't find any of it sexist at all (quite the opposite), and I don't see how you can see it like that. He was also one of the first to recognize that computers will become conscious with emotions, and to develop a comprehensive future history. But if you're unfamiliar with him, read his 50's and 60's novels first (esp The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Podkayne of Mars, Starship Troopers, and _then_ Stranger in a Strange Land, and maybe some juveniles after that). He is definitely great though and I intend to read all his books someday, and btw, I did enjoy this one. :)
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